Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali,
Lee's Brokeback Mountain
Kelly's Donnie Darko
My ratings: http://www.imdb.com/mymovies/list?l=18999917
A Joy to all the Senses we Bring to Cinema. 2007's Masterpiece
With a paltry two Oscar nominations (for Cinematography and Supporting Actor) the Assassination of Jesse James joins the ranks of cinematic achievements (most recently A History of Violence) that get annually short-changed by the Academy.
At 2 hours and 45 minutes, with a title that stretches to a daunting ten words (not to mention one that gives away the final plot), and with the complex idiom of the American west (the colloquial complexities, arcane geographies, making it harder for an international audience), and you have a film that could end up being a trying, if not exasperating, experience.
But the Assassination of Jesse James emerges from all this as one of the great triumphs of the year, leaving in its languorous brilliance a story of destructive mythification, paranoia and, above all, sickening fear.
Director Andrew Dominick chronicles the story of the famous outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) who, at the age of 34, is celebrated and mythified in dime-comics and legends, but is filled with self-loath and despair within. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), who grew up with a comic book idealization of James, meets his idol as he plans his last train robbery. Rebuked by James, Ford begins to turn resentful and pursues the path foretold by the title.
Ford's eventual detachment from his childhood myths becomes critical in enabling him to kill James with cold-blooded planning, acquiring in the process a large bounty and the perhaps expected goodwill and heroism from killing an outlaw. But soon after, tables turn as Jesse James continues to live as a legend in popular memory, leaving Ford to confront the devastating implications of his act that question his moral compass.
No doubt, the film moves slowly, but it does so exquisitely, exposing the nuances of its characters in slow meditative shots and conversations. There is a powerful dramatic tension that undergirds this film, and indeed heightens as it proceeds to its raw and thrilling climax. This languor, coupled with a deep visual sense and rich moods makes Jesse James an almost hypnotic literary experience.
The acting performances are superlative. Garret Dillahunt as Ed Miller and Sam Rockwell as Charlie Ford give sublime performances as men sickened in fear for their lives.
Casey Affleck brilliantly creates a character as irritating and annoying as Ford, while slowly and persuasively exposing his instabilities and vulnerabilities in confronting his idol, and subsequently, his own life.
Without an Oscar nomination, but as deserving, is Brad Pitt who lends the film an enigmatic and sensual presence, with a performance that ranges from moments of poignant despair to those of destructive paranoia. Unlike Affleck, Pitt's performance is deeply understated and is as languorous and rich as the film itself. The best actor award at the Venice Film Festival was highly deserving.
Cinematographer Roger Deakin (Shawshank Redemption, Fargo) captures the marvelous palette of colours and shades that make Westerns to notoriously seductive, and is a frontrunner for an Oscar this year.
Moody, visually transporting, and melancholic, the Assassination of Jesse James is a far cry from the romantic bravado of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and is as gritty and compelling as the very best in the Western genre. It is this year's Masterpiece. -----------------Deepak Nair